all-important subtitle of this course is “Dickens vs. Thackeray: Victorian
Rivalry.” We will be reading and
studying two representative (and superb) Victorian novels—Charles Dickens’
DAVID COPPERFIELD (1849-50) and William Makepeace Thackeray’s VANITY FAIR
(1847-48)—pitting head to head the two dominant novelists of the early and
middle British Victorian periods. Both
had their fans and their critics, Thackeray usually the favorite of the
intelligentsia and Dickens more popular with the middle class reading public. Both novels were serialized in nineteen
monthly parts, similar to present-day TV series with recurring story lines.
These are, as a result, large books in the classic Victorian
style—approximately 800+ pages each.
We will read
both novels closely, approximately 200 pages a week, and examine them in terms
of their critical and popular response both then and now, with additional
emphasis on the Victorian literary marketplace and on theories of the novel,
then and now. By the end of the course you should have developed a deeper
understanding of the genius of both novelists, the influence of the marketplace
on literature, and many aspects of Victorian life and society.
keep a weekly reader response journal, write two critical essays and one
research essay, and take a final exam.
There are only
two assigned texts: DAVID COPPERFIELD and VANITY FAIR, preferably in the Norton